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Understanding Promotion : how promotional tools work together

Understanding Promotion

Defining Promotion

As a key marketing element, promotion comprises communications tactics used to educate consumers, increase demand, and differentiate brands.


Describe how promotional tools work together to educate consumers and generate sales


Key Points

  • A promotional plan identifies where, when, and how advertising, personal selling, PR, sales promotion, and direct marketing tactics will be used to support sales and branding objectives.
  • Promotional tools are used to increase sales, build brand value and recognition, strengthen market positioning, and launch new products.
  • Online banner advertisements, store rebates, contests, events, and media placement are all examples of communications tactics used in the promotional mix.

Key Terms

  • stakeholder: a person or organization with a legitimate interest in a given situation, action, or enterprise
  • publicity: Advertising or other activity designed to rouse public interest in something.
  • Direct Marketing: Marketing that reaches customers by communications directly addressed to the customer.

What is Promotion?

Promotion is one of the primary elements used in the marketing mix. Thus, promotional efforts should work in harmony with product marketing, pricing, and distribution actions that target prospects and customers. When assembling a promotional plan, marketers typically employ one or more of the following five promotional subcategories: personal selling, advertising, sales promotion, direct marketing, and publicity (or public relations ).

These communication tools serve as tactics within the promotional plan to accomplish objectives such as:

  • Increasing sales
  • Launching new products
  • Creating and building brand equity
  • Establishing market positioning
  • Retaliating against competition
  • Strengthening brand image

As organizations implement their promotional plan, they also seek to educate consumers, increase consumer demand, and differentiate their products and services in the marketplace.


Cingular Rewards Card: Companies use promotional tactics such as reward programs to increase sales and acquire customers.

The Promotional Mix

Increased market segmentation, information technologies, and digital communications have created new ways for promoting products across different media. Today, organizations can create online banner advertisements, social networking websites, blogs, and search engine optimization campaigns to promote their products and services. However, traditional promotional tools such as special events, celebrity endorsements, in-store coupons, and newspapers are also employed to entice customers to purchase goods. For example, retailers often use promotional tactics including discounts, store rebates, free items, contests, and other special offers to drive new sales and repeat purchases.

The promotional tools used to educate customers and generate sales vary depending on the organization’s objective. Because public relations (PR) focuses on influencing and shaping public opinion, PR efforts are useful for building brand value and generating positive stories around products and services. Events, which often generate publicity, can serve long-term objectives for building partnerships with external stakeholders, strengthening customer loyalty and enhancing industry credibility.

However, organizations may choose to use short-term mechanisms such as sales promotions and coupons to generate immediate customer interest and revenue. Direct mailers or email newsletters further support these incentives to prompt customer action and purchases. Print, television, radio, and online advertising can be used to promote all of these activities and drive sales for the organization. These promotional tools are even more effective when built into an integrated marketing communication strategy, since all communications work together simultaneously to multiply consumers’ exposure to brand messaging.

The Many Goals of Persuasion

Promotional tactics are frequently used by companies to persuade consumers to choose their products over competing brands.


Describe the techniques used to persuade consumers to purchase products over competing brands


Key Points

  • To convince consumers to purchase their products over competing brands, companies focus on differentiating their products, building brand awareness and loyalty, and providing consumer education.
  • Companies employ a myriad of design techniques to shape consumers’ perception of the physical products displayed in stores, on the street, or in the digital space.
  • Some of the promotional tools used to convince and persuade consumers to make purchasing decisions include reward programs, positive consumer reviews, and attractive advertisements.

Key Terms

  • differentiation: The process of distinguishing a product or offering from others to make it more attractive to a particular target market.

The Many Goals of Persuasion

To convince consumers that their products possess advantages over similar brands, companies focus on differentiating their brands using various promotional tactics. Advertising, personal selling, sales promotion, and public relations activities are commonly used to persuade consumers to make a purchase. Brands constantly promote product features and benefits to convince consumers that their products either address the consumer’s needs or solve a particular problem. By promoting their brand in creative and compelling ways, companies hope to create positive esteem and loyalty toward the brand to fuel repeat purchases and customer retention.


T-Mobile Promotion: Companies use special promotions to drive repeat business and brand loyalty.

Product Differentiation

When running promotional programs, companies seek to clearly and effectively market their product’s differential factor. Differentiation sets similar products apart from one another, and creates value for consumers evaluating different brands. Differentiating products allows companies to influence consumers’ perception of their brand in an increasingly crowded marketplace. If the product’s differential factor is compelling enough, companies hope to convince consumers to continually choose their products over competitors.

Companies employ a myriad of techniques to shape consumers’ perception of the physical products displayed in stores or on the street. Common persuasive techniques include:

  • Using bright and attractive displays depicting emotions such as excitement, relaxation, or happiness.
  • Incorporating prominent and easily recognizable colors in billboards, print ads, and design packaging.
  • Strategically placing and arranging products in stores to allow for maximum visibility and purchase opportunities.

Colors and imagery can serve as powerful visuals for quickly conveying a product’s ability to successfully meet consumer needs. For instance, colors such as yellow and orange provoke excitement while blue and green establish trust, cleanliness, and calmness. As more consumers spend their time surfing the Internet on computers and mobile devices, similar strategies are used in online promotions such as banner ads and email communications. Digital communications, like traditional communications, rely on captivating and clever messaging to prompt open rates and click-throughs to advertisers’ landing pages. With social media, companies have the ability to advertise their product’s differential qualities to any person in the world, at any given instant.

Brand Awareness and Loyalty

The primary objective of marketers and advertisers is to present ideas in a manner that is so convincing that consumers will not just purchase a product or service once, but will do so repeatedly over time. Companies must thus remind customers of their product’s unique benefits using messaging that resonates with consumer needs and values. Branding, product marketing, and loyalty marketing all form part of the customer proposition – the subjective assessment by the customer on whether to purchase a brand based on the value they receive from each of these marketing elements.

As companies compete for consumer attention across print, television, radio, and the Internet, promotional tools such as reward and discount programs are repeatedly offered to loyal customers in return for their continued business. The airline industry’s frequent flyer program is a successful example of loyalty marketing. These programs rely on the earned loyalty of current customers to attract new loyalty from future customers. However, exclusive incentive programs must strike a balance between increasing benefits for new customers over any existing loyalty plan they are currently in and keeping existing customers from moving to new plans.

Consumer Education

Companies look to be brand leaders in their industry by providing consumers with relevant information on product pricing, functionality, and availability. Providing consumers and other brand stakeholders with the skills, concepts, and understanding required to achieve maximum satisfaction and utilization of the product can transform consumer needs into perceived wants. Even after a purchase is made, companies devote sales and customer service teams to supporting customers with training and other educational programs. This idea is especially true for highly technical products such as computer software, which regularly release upgrades and new features.

Reviews of products in trade publications and on websites can also help promote or downgrade products. Consumers may include review and rating websites such as or consumer reports as part of their education on product features and benefits. These reviews also serve as indirect public relations for the brand, potentially enhancing and strengthening brand value. Outside consumer opinions and expert insight fall under the arsenal of promotional tools that can persuade consumers during the buying decision process.

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